Monday, October 14, 2013

Beware the Meddlers...

Wild Cat by paynehollow
Wild Cat, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

I've been discussing the notion of Meddling with Craig and others over at another blog. The question was raised by the blogger, "Why do people object to people saying 'That behavior is wrong...'?" and I had responded that, at least in some cases, it's because we don't want to meddle. And why don't we want to meddle? Because meddling is wrong.

And, since this was a Bible crowd (ie, folk who like to be "convinced" by Bible passages), I pointed out that St Paul includes "meddlers" in with a list of sinners including murderers and evil-doers. Biblically, and just rationally, meddling is wrong, it's annoying, we should avoid it.

Craig allowed that, okay, that is a legitimate verse, but still, he said...

If I truly cared about my friend or family member wouldn’t it be more caring and loving to encourage and support moving toward behavior that is as minimally sinful/harmful as is possible?

And, after some back and forth (my answer was, "Generally, No, it's not more caring."), I tried another approach...

Look at it this way: There's a whole world of behaviors that are potentially right/wrong... good/bad. We feel more certain on some behaviors and our opinions are less strong on other behaviors.

Should I use a gas mower to cut my grass?
Should I move to a house/apartment that is so far away that I have to drive to work?
Should I move to a city with no public transit?
Should I buy a coke and popcorn at a movie when there are so many people starving?
Should I go to a movie at all, spending money frivolously when people are starving? How about a matinee for $3? What if I rent it for $1??
Should I divorce my abusive spouse? What if the abuse is only verbal?
Is smoking cigarettes sinful in God's eyes? The Bible never says so, so is it okay???

You get the idea. There are a multitude of choices and behaviors that we make each and every day. Any and all of those choices are potentially "sinful," if you are of that mindset, right? And if we don't speak up on "sinful" behavior of others, then are we being loving?

Where would you draw that line? Surely you don't spend all day offering your opinion to a variety of strangers and friends or acquaintances on what you think God thinks is wrong, do you? Because, "IF you truly care for a friend, isn't this the right thing to do... to offer my opinion on the hundreds of daily choices we make that might be sinful...?"

No, I don't think being loving requires us to offer our opinions about what WE think God thinks. For one, I think that is presumptuous - these friends and neighbors are free moral agents, created in God's image, just a little lower than angels. Do they really need me to guide their each step, in my effort to love them?

No, I don't think so.

When you look at it like that, Craig (and anyone else), can't you at least agree a little bit with me? If you can't, then where do you draw the line? Or do you NOT draw a line and you truly go around all the time offering your opinions on all these potential "sins..."?

Of course, God hasn't told any of us what is meant by "meddlers," so I'm entirely offering my opinions here, but I think the whole problem with meddling - why it seems to be treated so seriously - is the presumption it implies on the Meddler's part.

The word translated Meddler in the Bible, according to the Bible Dictionary website...

Allotriepiskopos literally means “not one’s own overseer.” “Not one’s own” is one word and “overseer” is the other. It means, thus, “one who oversees others’ matters or affairs.”

Which is pretty much the same as the Merriam Webster English definition...

to become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted

The idea is that it's taking a place of Overseer, or The Authority over another person, unasked and un-welcomed, and this just seems presumptuous. Who am I to decide for you how you spend your days? Who am I to speak authoritatively as to what God wants for you?

From a Christian point of view, this presumption appears to be putting us in the place of god over another person and I think we can see how that could be terribly troubling.

Now, I did make it clear that I think there are limits to "bad" meddling. That is, if I'm part of a community/group that is asking one another to help hold one another accountable, then I HAVE given permission for someone to tell me when I'm in the wrong. For a simple example: The alcoholics group, where they have agreed to be accountable to one another to help them all succeed in getting away from their addiction. And so, mutual accountability is not meddling.

And, of course, an intervention in the case of someone harming someone else, that is not what we would typically call meddling, or, if it is meddling, it is a righteous/acceptable meddling.

But assuming no overt harm is being done to someone else and assuming that they have not invited me to tell them when they're wrong, then I'd lean pretty heavily AWAY from meddling because, well, meddling is wrong. It's to be avoided. We can't afford to put ourselves in the place of God in someone else's life. That just won't help.

Seems to me.

31 comments:

Alan said...

Funny, I would have thought that simple good manners would have been enough to convince someone that they're meddling was not wanted.

But that's the deal with meddlers, isn't it, they don't get it.

It isn't enough to simply say to them, thanks for the advice, but I don't want it. They insist on repeating it over and over and over. And if all it was about was advice that would be one thing, but actively attempting to ruin people's lives, well that's just spite for the sake of spite.

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." ~ C.S. Lewis

Alan said...

(And if the person you think one is being "loving" toward keeps telling you that it is really hate, then perhaps one should just leave it alone and walk away. As a grown adult, I really do know the difference, thank you very much.)

Dan Trabue said...

Another interesting thing about it is that they seem to reject "meddling" as a wrong behavior, even though Paul literally says, "don't be a murderer, an evil-doer or a meddler..."

Marshall came right out and said, in spite of that verse, that no, meddling is not wrong.

Craig is more interesting. He says (as I understand it - I keep asking for clarification and keep not getting it) that YES, meddling is apparently wrong (if it's actually condemned in the Bible, then I guess it is wrong... something like that), BUT that he still thinks it's right to tell people when they're wrong, even if they don't want to be told...

In other words, meddling is wrong because the Bible says it is, but he thinks it right to do the very definition of meddling.

He's not an irrational guy, what sort of response is that? Craig? I would still love an explanation. I'm sure you have some reasonable explanation, but I just can't see it.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

That another person's life, regardless of faults and failures, is no one's business but that person's just seems lost on some folks. Having been raised to mind my own business, I nevertheless see - as I'm sure we all do - countless examples each and every day of folks doing the equivalent of crapping their pants in public without realizing it. What, precisely, should anyone do in such a situation? What would I gain by pointing out what's going on?

Like the moral scolds who haunt the internet, such folks get a wonderful sense of their own superiority, at zero cost to themselves. It takes no courage whatsoever to say, "Geez, you know, burning those kittens, that was bad." What of it? What's been proved other than the person who wrote that isn't a sociopath?

Since much of the meddling that goes on tends toward what our old friend Mark once did, saying that as someone who is pro-choice, I am no different from a moral point-of-view than Stalin or Mao, meddling seems more to be on the order of trolling. Like my latest blog post, I devoutly wish people who spend hours arguing over things in other people's lives would find a hobby, or spend their time doing things that are actively enjoyable, rather than share their neuroses with the world.

Alan said...

" BUT that he still thinks it's right to tell people when they're wrong, even if they don't want to be told... "

Well, to be clear, there is no right to not be offended. So if someone has some desperate need to tell another adult how to live their lives, they can certainly do so. It's bad manners, yes, of course. But a person has the right to say anything they want. And the rest of us have the right to ignore these Gladys Kravitz's.

But having the right to do so, doesn't make it right. And having the right to say anything should not translate into having the right to set out to screw with other people's lives.

The examples that I have seen most often, used to try to rationalize meddling, are something like, "but if your kid wants to touch the stove, wouldn't you tell them to stop?"

If you're looking for an explanation, that sort of arrogance -- seeing all other adults as kids that need to be scolded -- is, in my opinion, the underlying psychological issue for the busybodies, fusspots, meddlers and scolds of the world. (There's probably an underlying fear of examining their own lives as well, as any busybody I've ever seen usually has some pretty serious issues themselves. And some, as we know, don't just have issues, they have whole subscriptions -- see for example Newt or Rush lecturing people on the sanctity of marriage.)

John B said...

To be fair, Craig and Marshall's objections were not that meddling weren't wrong. They objected to your definition and application.

Dan Trabue said...

To be fair, John, perhaps you could understand how I took Marshall to mean that he didn't think that meddling is a sin when he said, "I DON'T THINK MEDDLING IS A SIN."

Am I crazy, or isn't that a reasonable conclusion to reach?

As to Craig, I have kept asking him how he is defining meddling, where he draws the line, if he could explain how he both thinks meddling is wrong and simultaneously believes it okay to tell people when he thinks they're wrong, even if they don't want to hear it from him... (ie, literally, "meddling.")

I acknowledge there is a difference between helpful concern-sharing and intervention and bad meddling and that it can be difficult to say exactly where the line is, which is why I keep asking where he is drawing the line.

I've also asked you and still wonder: Do you think meddling is wrong? Where do you draw the line between sharing concerns and meddling?

Marshall Art said...

"Marshall came right out and said, in spite of that verse, that no, meddling is not wrong."

"To be fair, John, perhaps you could understand how I took Marshall to mean that he didn't think that meddling is a sin when he said, "I DON'T THINK MEDDLING IS A SIN.""

To be really fair, I'd say that expecting John, or anyone, to remember or take the time to find a specific statement such as I DON'T THINK MEDDLING IS A SIN is not especially reasonable in a thread of 244 comments and when some of mine are almost as lengthy as yours. But I'll clear it up now. I only found where I said meddling isn't wrong (from a comment on Oct 15. I'll go farther and say that no, it is not a "sin" in the sense that anything preceded in Scripture by "Thou shalt not" is a sin. And while meddling, however it is defined, is not what one might consider a behavior in which a good Christian would involve himself, to go so far as to call it a sin would require some Biblical support. The five passages Dan cited at John's blog did not do this.

Dan hangs his hat most especially on 1 Peter 4:15. But this verse does not, as Dan says, truly group meddling with the other behaviors mentioned so as to put them all under the umbrella of sinful behaviors. Indeed, some Bibles separate meddling from the others and some separate each from the other. (Based on the use of "as" and how many times a given rendering uses it.) The passage in context refers to suffering over accusations leveled against the Christian, who, at the time it was written, did not self-identify with this word. "Christian" was used to describe followers of Christ in a demeaning way and to suffer that was to be understood as a good thing by disciples. In other words, if someone calls you a goody-two-shoes, that is a burden that should be happily carried as opposed to being called a lazy bum (as an example). This is the point of the passage from verse 12-19. As to verse 15, Peter could have easily used any number of behaviors to make the point, including nose-picking, for the shame one might feel for being so accused. But is nose-picking a sin? I don't think so.

Alan said...

My question back to you Dan, would be: Is a particular action wrong if and only if it is listed in the Bible? Because that seems to be the argument you're agreeing to, even if that isn't the argument you would make.

In other words, you're agreeing to the premise of a faulty question.

Turns out there are plenty of things that are wrong that are not spoken about in the Bible. I'm pretty sure that drinking all the OJ and putting the empty carton back in the fridge is bad manners, but I doubt you'd find that in the Bible.

The use of the Bible as only a rule book is a particular sort of fundamentalist idolatry that I would avoid if I were you.

Dan Trabue said...

of course, that is part of my point.

But the point is, THEY ascribe to the Bible-as-rulebook view, but not here in this case.

No, of course I'm NOT agreeing to "an action is wrong if it is listed in the Bible and not otherwise..." that is exactly the wrong way to understand and approach the Bible and morality.

So, thanks for letting me clarify, NO, that is not my position.

Marshall Art said...

"But the point is, THEY ascribe to the Bible-as-rulebook view, but not here in this case."

But that's more likely because meddling is never regarded as "sinful" as is, say, stealing. As I've said, none of the passages that you've put forth categorize meddling as sinful behavior.

Ironically, just like the targets of meddling, those that bristle at the notion of the Bible as a rulebook simply do not want anyone to tell them their behavior is sinful and repentance is needed. Also in a bit of irony, those who say the Bible isn't a rule book ascribe to rules of living derived from their "interpretation" of Scripture, and, regardless of some expressed denial that such is not looking to impose that interpretation on anyone else, or that such interpretation are merely opinion, they at the very least impose on themselves the rules their interpretation suggests they should follow.

Alan said...

Irony. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

It is not ironic that I "simply do not want anyone to tell them their behavior is sinful and repentance is needed". It is true. I simply do not need you to tell me that you think my behavior is sinful. It isn't "ironic" or anything else.

The irony is that you seem to understand that grown adults do not want you to tell them that you think their behavior is sinful, but that you still do it anyway. Wait, sorry, that isn't ironic. It's just stupid.

"Also in a bit of irony, those who say the Bible isn't a rule book ascribe to rules of living derived from their "interpretation" of Scripture, and, regardless of some expressed denial that such is not looking to impose that interpretation on anyone else, or that such interpretation are merely opinion, they at the very least impose on themselves the rules their interpretation suggests they should follow."

And that bit of word salad just makes you look like an ignoramus. Being an ignoramus isn't a sin. But some people simply do not want anyone telling them that they are ignoramuses.

Gee, I wonder why.

Alan said...

And to be clear, you use the word "anyone." That isn't true. I'm fine with people I know and love and trust to politely tell me whatever they want.

But total stranger? Some fussbudget and scold who 90% of the time sounds like Gladys Kravitz in need of an enema, and 100% of the time is a complete idiot? Who we have shown time and time again does not actually know the Bible (doesn't know that the Golden Rule can actually be found in Scripture, for example, &etc.) and for whom English isn't even a third or fourth language? Some 60-something failure who spends all his free time bitching on the internet?

No, thanks.

Fix your own life first.

Marshall Art said...

Despite Alan's failed attempt at humor, as well as his failed attempt to dismiss my overall comments, the fact is that he indeed doesn't like being told that what he wants to do is sinful. Who does? But if it is, which it is, he indeed does need to be told, over and over, until he repents or the "meddler" realizes reprobates can't be told anything. Where the meddler usually goes wrong is in failing to realize that sinners gonna sin and often there's little anyone can do to affect change the sinner doesn't want.

"The irony is that you seem to understand that grown adults do not want you to tell them that you think their behavior is sinful, but that you still do it anyway."

This is what you'd like to believe, but aside from blog discussions like this, where I'm dealing with smarmy and irrelevant people like Alan, I do not engage in this activity much at all. Sure, there are situations where my opinion on a given behavior is rendered, either by invitation or without one, but it is not my habit. I don't need to speak specifically to any individual I know since most of them are already aware of my position on a host behaviors, just as I am of theirs. This isn't unusual for any group of friends and/or acquaintances. But I am a participant in many discussions on a wide variety of topics and it is then that everyone learns the opinions of everyone else. This is very much what happens on the blogs.

But if someone like an Alan asks what I think of his own particular behavior, I will respond. If someone like Alan wishes to express his own opinion about a given behavior, his own or otherwise, then I am not bound by any standard of etiquette to refrain from offering a counter opinion. This is also commonplace and so far, we've not come close to anything that resembles "meddling".

And yeah, wise-ass. You can go on and on about the Golden Rule, a rule so common as to appear in a variety of disciplines, so gosh, sue me that I didn't speak accurately on THAT ONE POINT. But "time and time again" you've shown I don't know the Bible? That's extremely funny and you are such a quipster in saying so.

Also, I have not yet reached 60, what little free time I have I does not allow for much time "bitching" about anything on the internet. If it comes to a tenth, that would be a lot. Frankly, your comments are far more bitchy than anything I post. But that's to be expected.

Fix my own life first? What are you, some kind of meddler?

AS for being an ignoramus, that might be so. But you haven't been able to show that is so. You merely assert that it is. Whatever helps make you feel superior, child. I'm sure you need that, too.

Marshall Art said...

OK, Dan. I'm done sparring with the boy. But I'm more than willing to stick to the topic at hand. Do you care to continue?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

the fact is that he indeed doesn't like being told that what he wants to do is sinful. Who does?

Well, this much you have right. But the question is WHY don't people like being told - uninvited, by strangers or slight acquaintances, especially - "you're sinning here, here and here..."? Because that is meddling and meddling is wrong.

It is presumptive ("THAT person needs my wise counsel... if I don't tell him about his sins, he'll perish in ignorance and sin...!") and arrogant and rude. In short, it is wrong for a variety of reasons. Obviously so.

So people are opposed to your presumptive meddling, Marshall. They think it is wrong because meddling, Marshall, IS wrong.

Marshall...

This is what you'd like to believe, but aside from blog discussions like this, where I'm dealing with smarmy and irrelevant people like Alan, I do not engage in this activity much at all.

Why DON'T you engage in it much, Marshall? I though that you were suggesting this is what people SHOULD do - Meddle. Even though the Bible says, "don't be a murderer, an evil-doer or a meddler..." So, if you think people should meddle, then why don't you do it all the time?

Is it because you recognize, somewhere, somehow, that it IS wrong?

Marshall, are there ANY lines that you would draw with meddling?

Do you think it is right to criticize someone for the color of their car? For wearing polyester (it's condemned in the OT, you know)? For getting tattoos? For NOT getting tattoos? For not going to church every Sunday morning? For not observing the Sabbath on Saturday? Is there ANY lines you draw where you'd say, "You know, it's REALLY not my business that they do that?"

Dan Trabue said...

And both of you, quit talking to each other. Talk to me, talk about the topic or don't talk. You can't keep civil tongues when talking to each other, so I'd thank you to "If you can't say nothing nice, shut up."

Alan said...

I'm done, as I've proven my point.

People meddle because they can, even when they themselves admit that they know the other person doesn't want to hear it, and even when they themselves know that the other person isn't going to change.

And they prefer to do it from the comfort and anonymity of blogs, because they'd never have the guts to do it in real life.

All of which MA just admitted, which is as honest an answer to your question, Dan, as you're likely to get. Frankly far more honest (if no more self-aware) than I expected.

Marshall Art said...

Wow. You just like to make shit up, don't you, child?

Anyway, Dan:

"But the question is WHY don't people like being told - uninvited, by strangers or slight acquaintances, especially - "you're sinning here, here and here..."?"

Firstly, I don't think it is very common at all for "strangers and slight acquaintances" to make the effort to meddle in the affairs of strangers and slight acquaintances. Neither of these two would act directly. Meddling usually is perpetrated by closer relations--friends and family.

But to answer the question, the reason is because people don't like being told they must stop doing what they want to do. Think of the old song with the chorus "If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right." That could be said of any improper behavior enjoyed by the perpetrator of that behavior. No one thinks of primarily of a pleasurable activity being wrong. More precisely, they ignore or reject any implication, including their own consciences, that what they are doing is wrong. They WANT to do wrong. But to have the behavior so labeled cramps their style. They cannot engage without guilt and that is what is annoying.

So, they kill the messenger. They whine about meddling by the person who cared enough to hold another accountable to the truth regarding the behavior they know well is improper or sinful.

THAT'S why people don't like "meddling".

Is meddling presumptive, arrogant or rude? It can be depending upon how the sinner is approached. No doubt about that. But there are really few Gladys Kravitz types who, like the verses you tried to use at John's, are more guilty of being idle and interfering to feel as if their petty lives have purpose.

Those aren't the kinds of "meddlers" that John was talking about, and sorry is the person who remains silent in the face of bad behaviors to avoid being regarded as a Gladys Kravitz. Such aren't truly friends or caring people as they clearly are thinking only of themselves by avoiding the possible anger they might face.

"In short, it is wrong for a variety of reasons. Obviously so."

So obvious that you've yet to describe how or what those reasons might be. Oh yeah. Arrogance, rudeness, presumptive. But that's only a matter of style and execution.

"Why DON'T you engage in it much, Marshall?"

Let me be more clear: I do not engage in harassing people about their bad behaviors, or act in the cartoonish manner of a Gladys Kravitz. When I voice my displeasure regarding the behavior of another, I am straightforward as to why I am displeased and that I would prefer it not be done in my presence and definitely not in the presence of my family or on my property, and as the situation dictates, the consequences of non-compliance. And, as the situation dictates, I will say so openly without regard for the perpetrators feelings or the presence of others, or, I might take him aside and speak one-on-one. If the latter, and the perpetrator is amenable, I'll offer whatever reasons he might require for my intervention in the hopes that he sees the light or can show me why my concerns are unfounded. It's not a mystery how these things work.

Of course, there is always the chance that someone I thought would be willing to be held accountable might not truly enjoy the process after all, to the extent that our relationship is irrevocably broken. I haven't experienced this as yet, and on my side, I've never held it against anyone who felt legitimately compelled to "meddle" in my affairs.

Perhaps you run with petty people.

Marshall Art said...

And of course, Dan, the Bible doesn't say "don't be a murderer, an evil-doer or a meddler..." (Refer to my most recent comments at John's blog for details) So I'll meddle here and warn you about altering Scripture for your own purposes.

"So, if you think people should meddle, then why don't you do it all the time?"

You really need to settle on a specific definition for the word. If you're going to hang your hat on the fact that meddling is marked by the reaction of the person with whom one meddles, then any action, vocalization or push to speak out against a given behavior is meddling. I say this because any time a behavior is criticized, those who engage in the behavior don't want to hear it.

But the culture in which we now suffer is the result of good men doing nothing. Many of the ills of our society could have been prevented or mitigated had enough people spoken out. To defend good behavior and criticize bad behavior might entail some people speaking directly to others they know personally in order to set the precedent within their circle of influence.

The point here is that to neglect or avoid speaking against bad behavior results in more of the bad behavior. Again, the state of our culture is a clear and obvious example of this concept. And indeed, the whining against meddling is a part of that. It would be laughable to suggest that the percentage of virgin teen girls today is equal to that of 100 years ago. Why is that? It is because people held to standards and often voiced displeasure at even the notion that virtue would be dispensed with.

You try to erect a distinction between meddling and intervention. They are the same with the latter being used when the meddler believes the cause is just and the former when the person acting badly rejects the truth about his behavior.

In some ways, I DO do it all the time. But again, I can get my point made without the other person accusing me of meddling. My "meddling" is limited to getting my position known. That is to say, in the spirit of lending my voice to influence as I can, I let it be known that I am among those who find the behavior in question improper, wrong or sinful. Case in point:

I guy I once worked with told me he had asked a co-worker out for drinks. It was no secret he was married. He even expressed that he was turned down because he was married. While I don't necessarily think it is wrong to go out with a member of the opposite sex when married (I'm talking REAL marriage here, BTW), it certainly isn't the best idea if one cares for the feelings of one's spouse. I mentioned this and I did so after telling him his hopes of more than drinks were absolutely improper. I also mentioned that I'd prefer he never inform me of such desires as it diminishes how I think of him and he'll find no supporter in me of such designs.

This is about as direct as it ever needs to be or get, and in most cases merely speaking in general terms is enough to makes one's position known and thus become amongst whatever number exists of those who also disapprove.

Yet all of this is held in the same regard, by many, as the cartoonish Gladys Kravitz. It is reaction to being threatened with accountability, to being held to higher standards.

The fact is that adulthood is that stage of life when one feels entitled to act as childishly as one wants without being held accountable, as well as to use childish arguments to defend the behavior. So naturally "meddling", in any of its many variations, is generally frowned upon. Not because it is wrong, but because few want to give up their pleasures or be reminded that what they want is wrong.

Marshall Art said...

So now, you once again move to the ludicrous and pretend you are making legitimate and reasonable extrapolations when you list possible scenarios for meddling.

The fact is that it is not a matter of what is my business or not. It is not my business that my neighbor beats his wife and kids. It is not my business that another robs liquor stores. It is not my business that another is a hit man.

But I will not go down some idiotic list you compose of the most goofy possibilities so that you can pretend you've made some compelling point. There is none to be made with your empty crusade against meddling. What's more, you're trying to make your bones on a very subjective issue, and like really good art (Marshall or otherwise), an honest person of character knows it when he sees it.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

The fact is that it is not a matter of what is my business or not. It is not my business that my neighbor beats his wife and kids. It is not my business that another robs liquor stores. It is not my business that another is a hit man.

Of course it is. IF someone is harming another, moral, responsible people have an obligation to take action.

IF someone is harming another.

But, IF someone merely thinks "I like SUVs, they make me feel safe" or, "I think getting a vaccination for my child is a good idea" or any other of a million decisions we make every day and there is no harm to others and you're capable of assuming any risk for their behavior, then no, we THAT is not our business.

Marshall, it appears you are saying that you feel obliged to tell others (politely and with respect) any time they are "wrong" on some behavior ("wrong," being your opinion) - not because they are hurting others or imminently harming themselves, but simply because you hold the opinion that they are mistaken. You feel obliged to condemn that behavior, is that accurate?

I'd ask you, as a follower of Jesus, where you ever find him giving you that example, that teaching?

Jesus, who was approached by a bunch of religious zealots and asked to help "enforce" morality laws and who said, "Let him without sin cast the first stone..."

Who told the "sinner" - "I do not condemn you..."

Who did not feel obliged to list for this woman her sins (and he was Jesus), but who saved her from the crowd who was quite prepared to condemn her and kill her for her sins (thereby following THE LAW of morality as they understood it)...

No, Jesus did not feel it necessary to go around telling people there sins.

The ONE exception he makes for this is when the religious zealots (and I'm defining that as those who insist that THEY know what God wants and we must HEED what they "know" because they speak for God) went around telling people their sins, telling people how to live, telling people where they were wrong and failing to meet God's standards... THESE people and that behavior, Jesus condemned harshly.

But the prostitutes, gamblers, drinkers, and "normal" sinners... do we ever hear the first condemnation from Jesus' lips?

No.

Go, ye and do likewise. Follow this Christ that you name as Lord.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

the Bible doesn't say "don't be a murderer, an evil-doer or a meddler..." (Refer to my most recent comments at John's blog for details) So I'll meddle here and warn you about altering Scripture for your own purposes.

The irony here is incredibly deep, Marshall. Because you like and support the wrong action of meddling, you are altering obvious scripture to make it read something it does not say.

Here is the passage that you are twisting to call up, down and black, white...

to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you...

The church was facing persecution. Peter is saying, as long as you're suffering for doing good, for following Christ, this is a blessed and good thing, don't sweat it... then he continues...

Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler...

That is, DON'T suffer for doing wrong. That is nothing to be proud of...

BUT if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

NO, don't suffer for wrong actions (obvious wrong actions like murder, evil-doing and meddling), but rejoice in your suffering for good.

And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Again, Peter is distinguishing between GOOD suffering (for doing good, for following Christ) and BAD suffering (as a result of your own bad behavior, evil behavior like murder and meddling...).

Now, again, I'm not like you all in that I'm insisting that because this behavior is condemned in this passage (clearly) as a wrong does not make it "wrong" just because I find that line. The behavior is wrong because it is arrogant and presumptuous and ugly. But, for you who lift other lines to prooftext "sin," to ignore the clear meaning here, that is what some might call hypocritical.

Can you find any serious Christian commentary where they suggest that this evil of meddling (listed with other evils) is not evil, but that it doesn't fit in with the list of other evils listed?

Adam Clarke's counts it as wrong.

The Bible tools.org people count is as wrong ("it is a negative term. It describes a person who takes it upon himself to interfere in another person's matter.")

The verse by verse commentary people call it wrong ("PRINCIPLE: It is unchristian to meddle in the affairs of other people.")

John Wesley concurs ("Let none of you deservedly suffer, as an evildoer - In any kind.")

In looking around at commentaries, I can't find one that puts the spin on it that you are. I can find no support for meddling in the life, teachings and example of Jesus.

And, just using common sense and decency, meddling is wrong. It presumes way too much and that speaks of arrogance, not humility. Presumption, not love or grace.

Marshall Art said...

"I'd ask you, as a follower of Jesus, where you ever find him giving you that example, that teaching?"

Luke 17: 3-4.

There is also Gal 6:1, James 5:20, 1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 3:1-2, Ezekiel 33:8-9, Proverbs 27:5...

You make a few mistakes in your response, repeated from previous comments here and (mostly) at John's.

For one thing, no one is speaking of condemning anyone. That's God's job. But to warn of God's condemnation is a sign of concern. It is not meddling as you want every example of intervention to be.

But Jesus does indeed condemn bad behaviors. It really can't be helped even if He resigns Himself to only speaking about doing good. What is good if not the opposite of evil and the contrast is automatic.

However, He didn't condemn the woman accused of adultery but did condemn her behavior, and that of others, when He says "Go and sin no more". Obviously, this indicates that she had sinned, at least in some manner if not adultery. But the statement shows that HE KNOWS she sinned, or from her perspective, assumed she did. Any time He says this, He is interjecting Himself into the life of the person to whom He is speaking and, unless you can find a place where the woman accused invited Jesus' input, He was meddling (by invitation of those who sought to trap Him).

"No, Jesus did not feel it necessary to go around telling people there sins."

But He did do it when He felt the occasion called for it. Not just the Pharisees, but the money changers, for example, He was clearly meddling in their business. And again, any time He said, "Go and sin no more", He was doing as much. Indeed, one need not get specific about what one should change when encouraging them to change their ways. The sinner knows his sin.

And certainly, Christ's constant referencing of Scripture is enough for "prostitutes, gamblers, drinkers, and "normal" sinners" to get the point.

So I DO go and do likewise when I encourage repentance in others, as I endeavor to repent myself.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.

Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”


1. The request was for an example of Jesus telling someone "Your behavior is a sin." This is not an example.

2. It is an example of a teaching that says, if someone sins AGAINST YOU, to forgive them.

3. It also says, "if YOUR BROTHER," so it is speaking of a friend or family member, not random strangers, telling them what they're doing is wrong.

And again, it appears in context, that it is speaking about a sin AGAINST YOU. That is, if someone insults you, if they slander you, if they take from you or lie about you or otherwise sin AGAINST YOU, THEN it is okay to say, "Hey, you shouldn't do this..."

But that is different than offering up your opinions/rebukes about someone whose behavior isn't harming someone and isn't affecting you.

Should I take that to mean that you can find no examples of Jesus approaching people and telling them what they're doing is wrong, and doing so unasked (ie, meddling)? That is, outside of the religious zealots who meddled in the affairs of others?

Marshall Art said...

"The irony here is incredibly deep, Marshall. Because you like and support the wrong action of meddling, you are altering obvious scripture to make it read something it does not say."

Two problems here. First of all, I offered five different Bible renderings of 1 Peter 4:15. None of them suggested "do not meddle". I looked up ten more until I found one that reads as your offering reads. That's one out of fifteen that words it the way you have, and still it does not say "do not meddle". It does not say anything about the reason it is grouped near other sins is because it, too, is a sin.

Secondly, even where it is appropriate, there is nothing I've said that would indicate that I "like" it. I don't like to work for a living, but I do it because it is necessary. Sometimes pointing out the mistakes of another is necessary.

Peter is not distinguishing between "good" and "bad" suffering, but between which suffering brings about blessings, and therefore should not provoke despair, and which does not. Does suffering with a fever bring about blessings? Is suffering with a fever a moral good or bad? In other words, if suffering for grief received over being a Christian, suffering with joy and thankfulness for experiencing a touch of what Christ suffered.

Once again, the behavior is wrong if one is on the receiving end of it, but not wrong in and of itself. The problem with your position, though, is that it does not try to understand what is meant by meddling in those verses. That is to say, the definition must be more specifically drawn in order to call it "wrong". To that, I again direct your attention to those passages you cited at John's that mentioned being idle. I think if you were to study those more deeply, you'd find that idleness is the real issue and that meddling is of a type that is of no real value and a behavior that is perpetrated in place of actual productive enterprises.

"Can you find any serious Christian commentary where they suggest that this evil of meddling (listed with other evils) is not evil, but that it doesn't fit in with the list of other evils listed?"

First of all, links to those you've put forth would be helpful, as I don't have faith that your rendering is necessarily accurate. I'd much prefer to see for myself what you've read since we have very different ideas of what constitutes proper context for inferring points.

Secondly, you expect me to provide a commentary that spends time saying something isn't a sin when the text itself doesn't make the case? How would that work? Are there commentaries that do as much for any of a thousand other behaviors not specifically so categorized? As I have mentioned before, and you can see for yourself, there are renderings of this verse that separate meddling from the others within the verse itself, as well as each behavior listed as separate from each other. This, apparently means nothing to you, but one must ask why it might be done this way. I don't have time to fish out those commentaries again, and if you aren't about to link to yours, I don't feel any special compulsion now.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

the money changers, for example, He was clearly meddling in their business.

The moneychangers were causing direct harm, specifically and especially to the poor. I'm not speaking of stopping people from doing harm, that is to be expected. I'm speaking about going around telling people "Here's a list of your sins, you should change your life so you are not doing what I consider to be sin..."

As to the woman accused of adultery,

1. He did not seek her out to tell her her sin. He saved her from religious zealots who were accusing her of sin and were about to follow their religious laws and kill her, as they understood their teachings (ie, follow the letter of the law). And

2. He did not tell her "Here's what you're doing wrong..." He said, "neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more..." but he did not give her a list of changes to make or tell her specifically what she was doing wrong, if anything. No, JESUS, THE SON OF GOD - who would know everything about her - left her to her own moral judgments to figure out for herself what she should change.

Go ye and do likewise.

As to your other passages, yes there are passages that teach fellow Christians to help keep one another on track. As I have stated, I'm specifically NOT speaking of asked for mutual accountability. If you are part of a faith community that has some efforts expected at mutual accountability, that is not meddling (by definition). I would offer that this is what these passages speak of...

"If there is anyone AMONG YOU..." "if one OF YOUR BROTHERS..."

I'm not speaking of mutual accountability. I'm speaking of unwanted approaches to people and providing them with your opinion - unwanted - of what they are doing wrong (ie, literally, meddling).

Again, if Jesus, the son of God did not feel it necessary to tell an adulterous woman what she was doing wrong, perhaps you should do likewise?

Marshall Art said...

I would once again insist on a solid definition. I would once again insist that the key item in definitions you've put forth so far indicate the position of the person "victimized" by the meddler. That is, the fact that the input is unwanted. The very same input is not meddling if it is welcomed, even if not initially requested.

But the type of meddling at which the Bible so vaguely hints is not something that is very common place. So when John asked his original question, and you immediately chose "no one wants to meddle because it is wrong" as a reason, it suggests that meddling is really what John meant when he asked his question. I say it is a cheap excuse to not take the risk of stepping up and standing for righteousness in the face of obvious wrongdoing. The problem here is the consequences of saying nothing to those who do wrong. The main one being that the wrong continues unabated and the wrong begins to be regarded as not so bad, and eventually morally benign if not outright good.

When it comes to my circle of influence, I can't see that NOT intervening is a good thing for those around me, if others don't have the courage to speak out. And in the larger scheme of things, never singling out actual perpetrators allows everyone to pretend that they aren't the ones to which the speaker is referring. No change occurs. No "heaven on earth" is possible.

So unless you're talking about an actual Gladys Kravitz sterotype with nothing better to do but be nosey and continually offer unsolicited commentary on the lives of her neighbors, then your whole line of argument is moot and totally unrelated to what John was after in his question.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

I say it is a cheap excuse to not take the risk of stepping up and standing for righteousness in the face of obvious wrongdoing.

"Obvious" to who? Again, if you're speaking of truly obvious sin/wrong - theft, lying, murder, rape, etc - we're in agreement. But that isn't meddling, because harm is being done and the person who is being harmed will very much want you to step in.

But, once we move away from truly "obvious" sin to more question matters of personal opinion (are tattoos sinful? Is smoking an occasional joint sinful? Is an occasional drink on your front porch sinful? Who should THAT guy marry?, etc, etc, etc) you've moved from obvious wrongs to matters of personal opinion and, in those cases, I'd advise against meddling, because meddling is clearly wrong.

Do you not see the pride and arrogance in someone (let's say a stranger in a restaurant) approaching you and saying, "Hey buddy, you only left a 15% tip! You some kind of immoral crapwad? What's wrong with you? These waiters are struggling to get by and you only leave a 15% tip?! Change your ways some, you're headed for some destruction/bad karma there!"? DO you see how that is rather presumptuous of this fella to decide for you what your tip should be? You are an adult, capable of making your own moral decisions, you don't need some stranger (or mere acquaintance) to butt in. Why? Because that is meddling and meddling is wrong.

So, IF you are advocating meddling only in cases of "obvious sins," then it is a reasonable question to address: What is your list of reasonable sins? Are you speaking only of cases that cause imminent harm or more matters of personal opinion?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

The very same input is not meddling if it is welcomed, even if not initially requested.

I'm speaking of the normal English definition of the word, which is someone interfering with someone else's affairs, when that interference is unwanted, not welcomed. Or, as the Bible dictionary translates the term, One who presumes to set themselves over another as their overseer - their nanny, I think would be an apt comparison - with the implication being that it is presumptive and unwanted interference.

Marshall Art said...

AS my example points out, even unwanted intervention can later be appreciated if it results in a better outcome or a lesson learned. So the idea that meddling is a wrong is not fixed, even when it initially is regarded as so by the "victim".

You once again use the most inane examples in order to make your case, and I will take a big chance on your suspect character and say I agree---some guy coming up out of the blue to chastise your tip amount would be inappropriate meddling, especially considering there's no evidence he knows why you selected that amount. I'm sure that's the perfect example for what John was getting at with his question.

As to "obvious" sin or harm, that is in the eyes of the meddler, obviously, since the "victim" is about to commit the sinful/harmful activity against which the "meddler" hopes to counsel.